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Create More Structure - How to Plan Structured Activities

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Updated June 16, 2014

There is one thing that you can do that will indisputably improve your mental health -- create more structure. When you are having long days with few or no planned activities, you are more likely to experience emotional instability, low mood, self-harm, and impulsivity. Creating more structure will provide you with the balance, distraction, self-care, and opportunities for positive interactions that you need for good psychological functioning.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Get out a blank sheet of paper or print out a weekly calendar (just search for "printable calendar" online and you'll find lots of free options).
  2. Start by planning out tomorrow. Write the day of the week on the top of the sheet. Below, list waking hours in 1-hour intervals. If you wake up at 7:00 a.m., for example, start with seven and list all of the hours of the day until your bed time.
  3. Fill in any planned activities or appointments you have already scheduled.
  4. Fill in meal times (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  5. Fill in one remaining blank space with a self-care activity, such as going for a walk, going to the gym, or taking a relaxing bath.
  6. Fill in another remaining blank space with a productive activity, such as cleaning the house, going to the grocery store, or paying your bills.
  7. Fill in another with an activity that connects you with other people. This could be calling a friend, getting together with someone for dinner, or going to a support meeting.
  8. Fill in a remaining blank space with an activity that brings your life more meaning. For example, attending a church service, volunteering, or helping a friend.
  9. Repeat for each day of the week. Some days you may be busier than others, and you won't be able to add all of the activities described above. Remember that the goal is to create structure, not overburden yourself.

Tips:

  1. Remember that the activities you choose don't have to be monumental. Perhaps all you can muster for your "meaningful" activity is to go buy a pack of gum at the store and give the cashier a nice smile and greeting. Every little bit counts.
  2. Not every moment of every day needs to be scheduled. We all need some down time, too. Just make sure that down time isn't happening too often.
  3. This exercise doesn't work unless you actually follow through with a majority of the activities you've written down. To help motivate yourself, keep this list with you and check off each activity as you complete it. If you complete all of the activities you had planned for the day, give yourself a little reward (an activity you like, some TV or Internet time, or a small treat).

What You Need

  • Blank paper
  • A writing utensil
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